Washington judge hears gay marriage arguments

BY admin

September 03 2004 12:00 AM ET

A Thurston County, Wash., judge was scheduled to hear arguments Thursday morning on the legality of gay marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged Washington State's ban on same-sex marriage on behalf of 11 gay and lesbian couples from around the state. "Same-sex couples who have formed families are being discriminated against solely because of their gender," said Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, in a news release before the hearing. "The state of Washington has long acknowledged that gay and lesbian couples are suitable to be parents. We must no longer deny them the right to marry."

The state attorney general's office will defend the state's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The 11 plaintiff couples in the case are from Seattle, Olympia, Spokane, Port Townsend, Hoquiam, Graham, and Friday Harbor.

This case is the second major challenge to Washington's marriage laws. Last month a King County superior court judge ruled that the Washington law banning same-sex marriage violates the state constitution. That case has been appealed to the state supreme court, and the Thurston County case will probably be appealed also, no matter how the judge rules. The two cases will likely be consolidated for a hearing before the state's high court.

The challenges were raised after Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to allow same-sex marriages in May.

Last month a U.S. bankruptcy court judge ruled against a Castle Rock, Wash., lesbian who was seeking joint bankruptcy protection with her partner, marking the first time a federal court has upheld the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. That decision is not expected to affect state
court cases.

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